Why Christians Need Confessions, Part 9
Why do Christians need creeds and confessions? “7. The only further argument in support of Creeds on which I shall dwell, is, that their most zealous opposers do themselves virtually employ them in all their ecclesiastical proceedings.” (Samuel Miller, The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions; an 1824 address to the students of Princeton Seminary.)
Today we come to the final reason why Christians need creeds and confessions. Next week I’ll give you Miller’s response to five common objections to creeds and confessions, and then in two weeks a summary of this study.
Miller’s basic proposition here is that those who are most adamant in opposing creeds and confessions use them in church life. He gives the illustration that the Unitarian congregation would not hire a Calvinist as a preacher. Why? Because he does not interpret the Bible as they do. He does not agree with their creed nor they with his.
“We have before seen, that the friends of truth, in all ages, have found, in their sad experience, that a general profession of belief in the Bible, was altogether insufficient, either as a bond of union, or as a fence against inroads of error.” (Miller)
Saying we all agree or believe in the Bible does not make for unity in the body of Christ. If it did we wouldn’t have various churches and denominations. It is a nice sentiment. I have many friends, including some Pastors, in non-Reformed Churches. We agree on a lot of things. We believe in the same Bible. We aren’t on the same page theologically on every issue. And even those in non-creedal churches use a form of a creed in communicating what they believe about certain topics of Scripture.
Nor does a simple belief in the Bible protect the Church from error and heresy. No church can operate with out some form of creed. If everyone in the pews simply believes and interprets Scripture according to the dictates of conscience and experience, then truth can change from week to week. No church I know of operates on a “truth is relative” basis.
Everyone has a creed. Some are more honest about it than others. In some churches you can look to a written document to find out what a particular church believes. In other churches you have to attend for awhile and what that church believes and practices regarding Scripture then becomes evident.
Next week we will look at five common objections to creeds and confessions.